Countries' relations strained ahead of U.S-Russian discussions
American and Russian lawmakers are to hold the third in a series of discussions between the international committees of both parliaments. It comes as tensions between the two countries reach their highest point since the end of the Cold War.
As the U.S. and Russian lawmakers prepare to meet on Capitol Hill for joint discussions, tensions between the two counterparts are already rising. Recent remarks by congressman Tom Lantos have irked the Russian delegation."
“Unfortunately this third meeting goes on with some complications because my vis-à-vis, Mr. Lantos the Chairman of the Foreign Affairs committee of the House, has made some recent public statements in recent days insulting not just Russia as a country, but also the President of the Russian Federation and we do believe that such statements are absolutely unacceptable,” said Konstantin Kosachev, Chairman of the State Duma Foreign Affairs Committee.
Earlier in the week Congressman Lantos compared the Russian President Vladimir Putin's to the popular cartoon character Popeye the Sailorman.
The analogy comes from Russia's growing energy revenues, which the West fears may lead to Russia's “muscle flexing” over Europe.
Mr Lantos, a leading democratic lawmaker, has served in the House for more than a quarter century and is the only Holocaust survivor elected to Congress. He was liberated by the Soviet Army when a Russian solider freed him from his safe house.
“It's also a sentimental journey because I'm the only member of congress in the history of the congress of the US who owes his life to the Russian army, which liberated me in January of 1945 in my native city of Budapest,” Tom Lantos noted earlier during his visit to Moscow.
Mr Lantos has been making world headlines for at least two decades. Not one to hold his tongue, Mr Lantos has criticized European allies and the international community for not supporting the U.S. efforts in Iraq, Afghanistan, Panama, and other military involvements. Lanto's most famous blunder came during the run-up to the Gulf War, when he was linked to the “Kuwait Babies Massacre” – where Iraqi soldiers were said to have intentionally killed Kuwaiti children. The story was a hoax – but it was cited as a reason for the U.S.'s decision to go to war with Iraq in 1991. Most Recently, Lantos criticised the former German chancellor Schroeder, calling him a prostitute due to his close business ties with the Russian oil giant Gasprom. His remarks came under attack from the international community.
Political analyst Andranic Migranyan says the statement reflects the current political climate in Washington. “It was an un-diplomatic, very rude, and very humiliating statement made by an American congressman, which proves that today's America doesn't need any real partner, they need a satellite,” Andranic Migranyan stressed.
David Satter, a Russian observer and author, says Lanto's remarks although limited, may influence U.S. foreign policy.
“Even though congress doesn't make foreign policy and will not shape the official policies towards Russia, it does have a certain amount of influence and Lantos undoubtedly has a certain amount of influence and so he is a significant figure in U.S.-Russian relations right now,” Mr Satter believes.
The first ever open joint meeting between Russian and U.S. lawmakers is expected to generate a lot of attention. The anticipated full house, while focusing on the agenda issues of democracy and human rights, frozen conflicts, missile defense and economic issues, will also be watching for signs on whether tensions are increasing and the gloves are coming off, or if there are indications of restraint.